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Pop music is more than just the soundtrack to our lives; it has moved our emotions, stimulated our minds, formed our attitudes, and shaped our experiences. Covering subjects ranging from Bubblegum Music to Britpop, this course will examine the dynamic history and the multi-faceted nature of pop music. It will also use rock and pop music to help us understand the modern cultural environment, and to illustrate various philosophical issues.

Course outline

Week One - Beginnings

  • Rock Around the Clock, Elvis, Rhythm and Blues
  • Defining Rock and Pop.
  • Modernity and Postmodernity
  • To think or to feel?

Week Two - Tycoons of Teen

  • Profit and Popularity
  • Phil Spector, the girl groups, and Motown
  • The Beach Boys
  • The early Beatles, the British Invasion, and the Mersey Sound

Week Three - Changing Times

  • The Gates of Eden.
  • Poetry and Protest: Bob Dylan and the grown-up Beatles.
  • The Blues in Britain: the emergence of the guitar god, and the beginnings of hard rock.

Week Four -  Lucy in the Sky

  • Psychedelia. From Acid Rock to Bubblegum Music.
  • America Strikes Back: the Monkees, the Byrds, and Country Rock.
  • The Band, Roots Rock, and the origins of Heartland Rock.

Week Five - Parody and Postmodernity

  • Glitter and Art Rock: Roxy Music, Brian Eno, and David Bowie.
  • Progressive Rock: Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson.
  • Heavy Metal and stadium rock.

Week Six -  No Future

  • Punk Rock and New Wave Music.
  • Television, Blondie, and the New Wave in New York.
  • Reggae and the Ska revival.
  • New Order, Manchester, and Techno Pop.

Week Seven - Looking Backwards

  • From Big Star to the Paisley Underground movement.
  • New alternatives: REM and The Smiths.
  • Grunge and the birth of Indie.

Week Eight - Culture Wars

  • Britpop, Bristol, and Shoegazing.
  • A new Psychedelia?
  • Contemporary ‘R&B’ and the legacy of Soul.
  • What is the future of rock and pop music?

Learning outcomes

At the completion of this course you should have:

  • A greater appreciation of modern and contemporary culture.
  • Increased ability to analyze the social and creative forces that have shaped us.
  • Increased awareness of the ways in which our lived experiences and our sense of self have been constructed.

Who should enrol

The course is for those interested in pop and rock music, modern culture, music history, and the history of ideas.

What our students say

"Good solid imparting of info. Context of music and cultural and societal events gave me a deeper appreciation of music and of the artists which enhanced my own decades of knowledge and experience in broadcasting music programs."

"A fun, fascinating course, very well taught  by the teacher who had great command of his material. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the history of popular music."

"Full of information, class interaction and fun! I think the lecturer enjoys giving this course almost as much as the students do. I learnt so much, and didn't want it to end."

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